Congress Demands Privacy Answers from Facebook

By Matt Baume
|  Friday, Nov 5, 2010  |  Updated 8:15 AM PDT
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Congress Demands Privacy Answers from Facebook

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LONDON - FEBRUARY 03: The Facebook logo is reflected in the eye of a girl surfing the internet on February 3, 2008 in London, England. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Who's watching you when you're on Facebook?

That's just what Congress wants to know, and now the company has answered. Sort of.

Facebook sent a lengthy letter to Congresspeople recently, responding to a Wall Street Journal article regarding a privacy breach. According to that article, applications on the site have been collecting and sending personal data on users, even when users indicate that they want their information to remain private.

Facebook defended their privacy settings, pointing out that users are alerted when their details are about to be shared. In addition, the company said that the transmitted data was quite limited, and probably could not be used to divulge much information about a user's identity.

The company also attempted to shift some blame onto browsers like Firefox and Safari, claiming that the breach was a result of the way that browsers handle internet addresses. According to a Facebook official, the company is working with browser companies to create new privacy safeguards.

It remains to be seen whether these new assurances are enough to satisfy Edward J. Markey and Joe Barton, the two Congresspeople who have raised concerns about Facebook policies.  Serving on the Bi-Partisan Privacy Caucus and the Committee on Energy and Commerce, both politicians are in a position to demand a more robust response from the company, or even to create legislation targeted directly at Facebook's operations.

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